M. Sinatra1, V. de Palo2, G. Tanucci1, L. Monacis3

1University of Bari (ITALY)
2University of Verona (ITALY)
3University of Foggia (ITALY)
Current research in educational environments has increasingly focused on the development of adaptive hypermedia learning systems (AHLSs) that personalize instructional contents to students’ leaning method. This interest has grown in parallel with a change occurred in teaching, i.e., from a teacher centered learning to a student centered learning, where students’ self-evaluations have a very important role in this principle, above all in the light of the today theory of constructivism. In the constructivist learning process the learner constructs information through his/her own experiences, chooses, and interprets it and analyzes it with his/her former knowledge, so that learning is self-regulating and learner-centered due to its working at a metacognitive level.

These assumption are valid in the field of virtual learning environments, whose premises are to provide flexible teaching and learning environments for students through the provision of non-linear learning. Thanks to this acquired freedom, e-learning programs are attractive to students. However, with the expanding usage of such programs, the ability to effectively match the interface design with the increased diversity in students’ preferences becomes vital to their success. Thus, there is a need to examine the influences of human factors on learning, namely those individual characteristics that can potentially affect the design of human-computer interaction. Among them, cognitive style is widely studied in the area of e-learning because of its great effect on learners’ preferences. It has also suggested that matching cognitive styles to the design of e-learning programs leads to better learning performance. According to the different approaches, psychologists proposed several dimensions often as opposing pair, such as field-dependent and field-independent, wholist and serialist, verbalizer and visualiser.

Obviously, a lot of literature is interested to investigate the relationships between cognitive styles and hypermedia navigation, aiming at analyzing the level of congruence/incongruence between cognitive styles of the learners and the conceptual organization of the materials. However, there are some constructs that are left mostly unstudied: they are intrinsic motivation, learning strategies, and metacognition.
This research focused on the assessment of the efficacy of the didactic contents (Learning Objects, LOs), previously adapted to four cognitive styles and enabled by a SCORM environment and the role played by intrinsic motivation, learning strategies, and metacognition.

109 undergraduate students recruited on the basis of their computer attitude (mean age = 21,30 ± 1,8) completed a questionnaire made up of: Computer Attitude Scale (Liaw, 2002), Cognitive Style Questionnaire (De Beni, Moè, & Cornoldi, 2003), Intrinsic Motivation Scale (Polácek, 2005), Learning Strategies (Polácek, 2005), and Metacognition and Self Regulated Learning Scale (Polácek, 2005). The sample was evenly divided into two groups, i.e., e-learners and traditional learners. Causal analyses were applied to data to assess the structure of the relationship between the variables of interest.
Data showed the efficacy of the adaptation of learning contents to cognitive styles in an e-learning environment, even though the levels of participants’ intrinsic motivation and metacognition resulted low, contrary to what happens routinely.
These findings suggested a further research on a larger sample.